More YouTubing

I have a love-hate relationship with London. I love the concept, the idea, the history of the city. I hate having to actually visit the place. Too many people, too much noise, too much dirt. From where I live in the south-east of England, London forms an impenetrable lump of stuff that must be driven around in order to go almost anywhere else. Horrible place.

That’s probably why I find various YouTube channels about the city fascinating. That’s probably why I am providing links to them here. I hope this blog doesn’t become a link farm!

The first is called Joolz Guides. A dapper chap in a bowler hat leads you on walks around London. Along the way, he points out interesting buildings, talks about events and people, and educates and entertains. I simply adore this kind of stuff. Joolz is just the kind of genial guide to a place that makes actually having to visit in real life worth all the effort.

The next is called Londonist. It does what it says on the tin. As well as the channel, they have a web site with lots of fun information. Like Joolz, the presentation is witty and knowledgeable. I particularly liked the Underground series.

Anyway, that’s all for this post. Thanks for looking. More soon, I hope.

Belated updates

It’s definitely been one of those years, hasn’t it? Best Beloved and I had made lots of plans to do lots of things during 2020, and none of them—well, almost none of them—have happened. The Coronavirus pandemic has seen to that.

Personal medical issues had also seen to a lot of them, before the pandemic really hit. Happily, while not completely resolved, I am back to almost full health now. Longer term, who knows?

Earlier in the year I wrote about making changes here. I still want to make those changes, but I’m a bit stumped about how to make any progress on them. I will get there, just not in a hurry. Nothing seems at all important any more.

With all the stuff going on, I neglected this blog again. This mild post is by way of recompense. The following are few updates and links to interesting stuff that’s been keeping me sane this past year or so.

First, you may dimly recall I posted about a chap who was walking around the coastline of mainland Britain. I think I’ve since deleted my post, but you’ll be glad to know Quintin Lake has completed his odyssey. He documented his walk with stunning photos. I hope there’s a book or something more than just a web site. Anyway, go and have a look.

I used to watch a fair amount of telly back in the day. I enjoyed a lot of documentaries on science and history, the occasional movie, some comedy shows. Last Christmas, 2019, I recorded a lot of good stuff to catch up on over the festive period. Most of it I still haven’t actually watched. In fact, the PVR has hardly been turned on during the past year. I am wondering whether I really need television at all. If the set broke right now, I doubt I would bother to investigate a replacement. The space gained in the corner of the living room could gainfully be used to store more books!

YouTube, however, has seen me visit almost daily. I love messing with their algorithms, but that’s another story. The following are just some of the channels I find I have subscribed to and follow enthusiastically.

Bad Obsession Motorsport have been on my radar for some years now. I found the post I made back in 2014: Project Binky. I was enthralled by the engineering, the humour, and the very notion of cramming a Japanese four-wheel drive transmission and engine into a Mini. You will be unsurprised that Project Binky is still unfinished, though it is very close to completion. Go and have a look at the BOM channel. The latest escapades include reworking an old mobile library truck to make a car transporter, and haring round various racing circuits in a tiny city car. You won’t be disappointed.

With the petrol fumes still hanging in the air, another motoring related channel is Hubnut. Ian Seabrook is a former motoring magazine writer and editor who has a deep and abiding love of the mediocre cars of the 20th century. The channel covers his adventures in mediocrity, test driving all kinds of cars, the comings and goings on his “fleet”, “tinkering” and sometimes not breaking his cars, his travels—most recently a lengthy pre-Covid trip to New Zealand and Australia where he drove, unsurprisingly, some fascinating vehicles—and life in general.

Changing gear, literally and metaphorically, take a look at Nicola White’s Thames Mudlarking channel Tideline Art. Lots of mud, lots of history, and some explorations of the Medway estuary thrown in.

Still in a watery theme, Cruising The Cut is a channel I happened upon, when the YouTube algorithms did something right. To quote his own About page:

Cruising The Cut is a video blog by a man who sold up, quit his job and bought a narrowboat then went cruising around the UK canal network. It features life on board, beautiful scenery and places to visit plus tips and tricks.

That sums it up nicely. About twenty years ago, Best Beloved and I went on a week’s canal cruise and really enjoyed it. I thought I might be able to take to the slower pace of life, and the various limitations living on a narrow boat would bring. Watching Cruising The Cut, however, has convinced me the life wouldn’t be for me—at least, not permanently.

Finally, a channel that makes you wonder how on earth I stumbled across it—Caenhill Countryside Centre. I’ll be honest, and say it came via Twitter. An account I follow retweeted a short video entitled “the Morning Rush Hour” which consisted of huge numbers of poultry, ducks, geese, sheep, turkeys, goats, cats, an emu or two and a couple of pigs literally rushing through a barn door to be fed first thing of a morning. It was a feathery madness, with a star goose called Cuthbert. All the animals have names, and it transpired many are rescue animals being cared for by the farmer, who also really enjoys giving his animals voices so they can engage in conversation. I know, it sounds mad, but it’s endearing in an odd kind of way. More than that, Caenhill Countryside Centre is a working farm near Devizes in Wiltshire, but also a charity that helps young people learn about the countryside. They have just won an award for their social media and internet work over the past year, where they have been bringing fun and education to the world via all forms of social media. During the pandemic lockdowns, struggling themselves to make ends meet as their main forms of income were being cut back and nobody could visit the farm, Chris, Carline and Kara kept things going and kept entertaining the world. Sadly, we learned this week that Cuthbert the Goose, and Chris the Farmer’s best friend (his own words) had died after a lengthy illness over the summer. We will miss Cuthbert, but he did manage to father a couple of right tearaways, Giggle and Benedict, who are becoming stars in their own rights.

Well, there we are. The future of this blog is still in the balance, ideas are still being mulled, perhaps something will happen before the year is out. Wherever you are, please look after yourselves, your families and friends, and stay safe.

Can it really be four years?

Billy-puss has been living with us now since the end of May 2016. It is hard to imagine the home without him now! He made himself at home pretty much as soon as we unlocked the front door returning from the Cats Protection homing shelter.

He still loves being groomed, having his ears scratched and butting heads. He also likes his tummy tickled, so it’s pretty obvious he was handled by humans pretty much from birth. Billy likes to know where you are, and if you leave him alone in a room, he will come and find you. He just likes the company. As I type this, he’s snoozing on the sofa, only a couple of metres away.

So, apologies Billy for forgetting your fourth coming home birthday party. I’m sure you’ll forgive us, as our species has had quite a bit to deal with since March. Thank you for being here, and being a furry comforter when times have been a bit rough. We hope you’ll want to stay with us for a good few years yet.

Well, what’s new?

Hello there. It’s been far too long since I posted anything worthwhile here. I’ve been over the reasons in previous posts, so I won’t go over them again. So, what’s new?

I have spent an afternoon patiently going through my entire blog deleting all the rants and random news stuff. Enough negativity from me! I have edited posts referencing my now long-defunct Facebook page. Change is afoot.

My plan is to continue posting updates on life, the universe and everything. I want to continue sharing my photography—when I get back to it!—as well as linking to the photography of others. Long-time readers will note a few model aircraft have appeared over the years, and I intend to expand on that. Let me explain.

2020 is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the epic aerial battle that took place in the skies over southern England during the summer of 1940. The Battle, and how events from the 1920s transpired to reach that tipping point, is something I’ve been fascinated by for over 40 years. Starting out with an ambition to build models of the main aircraft flown by Britain and Germany during the Battle, things have since got slightly out of hand—I now plan to build examples of every plane that was operating during the whole of 1940, from all the countries involved at the time!

What I hope to do is post something about an aircraft, or a series of aircraft, with some explanatory text and images of the models. I have reached the conclusion that 1940 was a pivotal year in the Second World War, a year where many things were still in a state of flux, and the stage was being set for the rest of the conflict. The scope of my interests covers the Battle of Norway in the early spring, through the so-called Phoney War in France, through the invasions of Holland, Belgium and France, the Battle of France through to the armistice, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and into the day and night Blitz over the British mainland.

Not being content with that, I hope to then cover the Mediterranean and North Africa theatre. So, I have my work cut out, and all the while I am still supposed to be building railway models for clients!

There remains unresolved the technical issues I have experienced with this site. I am unsure as to how to fix them, but I will soldier on with things for now. I will generally not be allowing comments on posts, so apologies for that if you like to express opinions. You can find me in other places to do that!

Thank you for you patience, and I hope to be back to blogging about life at Snaptophobic Towers soon.

GWR 3100 Class 2-6-2T

Later rebuilt and renumbered into the 4400 Class, the small class of 11 tank engines that formed the 3100 Class was designed and built between 1905 and 1906. They were among the last locomotives to be constructed at the GWR Wolverhampton works.

When he moved into the post of the Great Western’s Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1902, George Jackson Churchward set about dragging the venerable railway company into the 20th century—kicking and screaming if necessary! His first act as CME was to design and commission three new types of locomotive, bringing the latest ideas together and setting the pattern for the GWR “look” henceforth.

One of the new designs used a wheel pattern of single axle pony trucks at front and rear, with three driven axles between them—2-6-2, using the Whyte arrangement designation— plus side tanks. A coned boiler with Belpaire firebox was also new, as well as the outside cylinders driving the wheels. The end result was a tidy, purposeful-looking prototype tank engine. After running on various parts of the network, it was decided to produce more of these engines, and the first would have small 4ft 1-1/2in diameter driving wheels in order to give it a wide route availability on the many small branch lines the served the deeper parts of Cornwall.

Eleven, including a prototype, were built. The embryonic “GWR house style” was there, but also odd choices, such as the tiny bunker. Numbered in the 3100 series, the class would eventually be joined by similar locos with 4ft 7-1/2in driving wheels, and they would all be renumbered into the 4400 Class, and subsequently know to enthusiasts as the Small Prairies.

After World War One, the class was subjected to various modifications. The bunkers were gradually enlarged, finally reaching the classic GWR “bustle”. The cabs acquired steel roofs, and boilers were enlarged and superheated, until the classic GWR Prairie look was achieved.

Working their entire lives on the branch lines of Cornwall, these attractive little engines were finally scrapped in the early 1950s.

The model was constructed from a Malcolm Mitchell etched brass and nickel silver kit to 7mm scale (1/43rd) and ScaleSeven standards. The kit, billed as a 4400 Class, is still available through MM1 Models. Various parts had to be remodelled or scratchbuilt to more accurately represent the first iteration of the design. A new boiler front ring and smokebox was created, a new cab roof made, and various other modifications were made. Inevitably, some compromises crept in, such as adjustments to the brake rigging to suit the real thing’s arrangement. Some areas, particularly the tops of the side tanks and cab fittings, have been open to some conjecture. Certainly, it seems the original builds of the class featured neat and tidy tank tops and all the washout plugs on the boiler cladding covered. Gradually, over their service lives, the locos acquired all the fiddly extras and clutter to replace the Edwardian simplicity and elegance of the original builds. The finished model was painted by Warren Haywood.

I have several more loco commissions to get through, including the Large Prairie cousin of this little engine. Once they’re cleared through, I shall be concentrating on coaches and rolling stock commissions. Find out more about my work on my web site, and you can follow some of my antics on Twitter. The link can be found on the web site.

L&YR Class 5 2-4-2T

The Aspinall Class 5 2-4-2T locomotives were introduced to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway from 1889. Built at the company’s Horwich works, the locos were used for passenger traffic, mainly commuter work, around the Manchester area for their entire working lives.

Various modifications and upgrades were done to the class over their lives. Boilers were improved, the bunkers extended for some lots, and some were fitted with apparatus that let them work as pull-and-push engines on trains. This was a system that let the driver operate the main controls remotely from a specially-designed cab at the end of the train, and avoided the need to run the loco round its train at terminus stations.

The Class 5s, reclassified as 2P when the L&Y was absorbed into the LMS in 1924, worked on until the 1950s. A few of the class survived into the 1960s, and one has been preserved in the National Collection and can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York.

The model was built as a commission. It is to a constant 1/43rd scale, 7mm to one foot, and features fully working inside motion within the frames. The basic kit was good, but needed some help in various areas. The finished model is shown in the LMS passenger livery that was used from about 1926 to 1945 or so.

If you’re a regular reader, you will know I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions to build railway subjects in the main. Once the current crop of loco builds are through the works, I shall be concentrating on passenger and non-passenger rolling stock, as I find building locos is a bit of a chore and doesn’t give the level of satisfaction a good coach build does.

Considering the future

I miss blogging regularly. I enjoyed the process of selecting images, writing the text, editing the thing, and hitting Publish. What went wrong?

Well, for one thing, this WordPress installation is on the blink. I should fix it, but I don’t know how and really don’t have the time or inclination. I keep hoping each update of the back office stuff will improve things, but it never does. It’s been so long now I’ve forgotten what is actually broken and how to fix it if I try to make it work again.

So, I tend not to bother. And the blog languishes for lack of content.

Another thing has been the state of my mental health. Since that ruddy “B” thing, with the huge amount of commissioned work I foolishly took on and can’t cope with, I’ve been on the way down quite severely. Some days over the past year or so I’ve found it hard to even function. The first step was to acknowledge I had a problem, and the next step was to roll with it and find coping mechanisms. I think it’s under control, but occasionally it catches me off guard. There’s no point my adding to the general screaming that’s going on, even if it makes me feel better for a while. The blog, therefore, remains mute.

As a way of helping the mental health, I killed my Facebook account (again) at the end of 2018. I really don’t miss it. No, really. You ought to try it.

I’ve been trying to deal with the modelling work backlog. I think it’s beginning to make more sense again. Not a lot has been completed, but I have a lot on its way through the workshop.

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

This brute did emerge, finally in 2018. The model represents the preserved GWR Collett 2251 Class loco No 3205, with one of the tenders it runs with in preservation, but as it ran when new in 1946. All clear? Thought not! After a painful gestation, the model was finally shipped to its new home in Australia. While I like the finished model, I am very glad to see it go.

There are still umpteen commission builds being worked on and pending. I’ve closed my order book for another year in the vain hope I might get on top of things eventually.

Meanwhile, I cheer myself up by building plastic aeroplanes.

This thing is the Fairey Rotodyne. The prototype flew in the late 1950s, and was all set to take the world by storm until various mergers ended up with the project being scrapped. The model is built from an Airfix 1/72nd scale kit, the original moulds for which date to 1959. It really doesn’t fit into my themed collection, but I built it to join into a group build on a modelling forum. It was a lot of fun at a time when I was feeling particularly low.

This bizarre little contraption is an Avro C.30 Rota, built in the UK under licence from Cierva. It’s an autogyro, which works by having a free-spinning rotor that isn’t powered by a motor. A small rotary engine at the front of the aircraft provided thrust, and the rotor could be spun up to provide lift for take-off. This 1/72nd scale model is from an RS Models kit, and represents the type used by the RAF for calibrating the RDF stations. Part of my ever-growing 1940 collection.

Another RS Models kit, this time of a Marcel Bloch MB-152. As part of my 1940 obsession I’ve been acquiring examples of planes flown by air forces other than Britain and Germany. I’m working slowly through my French collection, starting with the single-seat fighters that operated during the Battle of France between May and June 1940.

Morane-Saulnier MS.406C-1, a 1/72nd scale kit from Azur.

From HobbyBoss, this is a 1/72nd scale Dewoitine D.520C-1

Finally, this A Model 1/72nd kit is of a Curtiss Hawk H-75A-2. All the French planes here were flown by aces credited with shooting down multiple enemy aircraft during the Battle of France.

So, there you are. A quick update on life at Snaptophobic Towers. I might decide to update more often, I might not. I might decide to move the blog to another platform—again. I might not. Who can tell. Equally, it’s entirely on the cards that a physical move of location from the lower right hand corner of Blighty to somewhere a bit more near the top might happen—but don’t hold your breath.

Life must still go on

Despite the real world continuing to have a nervous breakdown, life here at Snaptophobic Towers must go on. After my little breakdown, I’ve been steadily getting back into the workbench swing, and have just completed a set of five 7mm scale coaches.

Although the build had its moments, I am very pleased with how these models turned out. The crimson and cream livery really suits these coaches. They represent British Railways standard coaches built in the early 1950s. A pair of BSK Brake Second Corridor coaches will top and tail a CK Composite Corridor and SK Second Corridor, with a BG Brake Guard which can be added as the mood suits.

The models are built from Easy-Build kits. Four had been partly built by the client, so I was tasked with completing them, with an additional kit added later. I’ve added a few details, but essentially the finished items are made from what came in the box.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in British railway subjects generally at 1/43rd scale (7mm to the foot). You can follow me on Twitter, and I also have a web site that gets some love occasionally. I’m not currently seeking new commissions, but I am always happy to discuss potential work.

Oh, hello

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, you can probably guess why. Yes, that whole B thing, quite apart from anything else. Everything is now seen through the prism of Brexit. Everything. It absorbs life and light, just like a black hole.

What was the point of sitting here, keyboard warrior, blethering on about things over which I have absolutely no control whatsoever? So, I didn’t.

At first, it was the world that was broken. Eventually, I thought, it would right itself. Except, instead, it seems to spiral further into complete insanity with every passing day. The world has now broken me. I only need to spend a few minutes looking around, or reading something about it, and I’m lost.

As a child of the Cold War, and having lived through the threat of thermonuclear annihilation during the 1970s and 1980s, I find myself seriously scared about the future. Just what does it have in store? Who knows, but it won’t be much fun from what I can see.

Anyway, aside from western civilisation collapsing and economic and social apocalypse come next April, what’s been going on?

I became overwhelmed with work. I just couldn’t do it. I sat and looked at my piled-up commission work, at what was happening on the bench, and threw my hands up in despair. I needed time off to consider my life, so everything is now way behind schedule. Thankfully, I have supportive and accepting clients. I am slowly trying to rebuild my enthusiasm for getting things done. The order book is closed until at least next year, perhaps longer. It’s a good job I don’t have to rely on my work to pay the bills.

Best Beloved is not well. He’s not really unwell, but he’s not the man he was. I think the global insanity, and my mental ill health, isn’t helping. We bumble on.

Billy-puss is the only real constant in life at present. He’s the rock that helps me keep somewhat grounded in the maelstrom.

We are actively considering a move. Not just to the next street, or town. I’d like to move to another country, but I’m about three decades too late to make that work. I could claim an Irish citizenship, thanks to a maternal grandfather, but I worry about maintaining links for my work and suppliers post that bloody B thing again. We could move to Scotland, before they split from this idiot England at last. Next best thing, I think, will be to move as far north in England as we can, to get away from the armageddon that Brexshit is likely to cause down here in Kent as the ports get clogged and the motorways turn into lorry parks. We currently have sights set on County Durham. It looks like a nice place, and we liked it when we paid a flying visit earlier in the year. A move can’t come soon enough for my liking. There’s nothing down here that inspires me any more.

The broken WordPress installation for this blog is still something I need to sort out. As I haven’t been posting here since the new year, there hasn’t seemed to be any point. There are alternatives, if I feel it’s worth the outlay, but good old inertia has a definite hold on me. I don’t expect I’ll bother sorting it out in the end.

So, there we are. Chaos and calamity reigns supreme, and it’s hard to keep a level head when all around is collapsing so quickly there’s no time to stop and think. I just keep trying to shuffle on regardless, though there seems to be less and less point to it all.

Don’t worry. Utterly depressed though I am, killing myself to end it all isn’t on the cards. That would be utterly pointless, and help no-one—least of all me! Something good will come out of all this, eventually. It has to.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

Most of the commissioned models I’ve been involved with since I started this professional modelling game have been of a distinctly western aspect. I have three Great Western Railway and ex-GWR locos done and dusted and several more to come, two sets of coaches, and what can sometimes seem like an endless stream of broad gauge models. In between there have been one or two models of other railway companies, but this is my first “proper” one from the eastern side.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

This came to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This means my client had made a start on building the kit, but for some reason or another had stumbled along the way resulting in the kit being returned to its box and placed on a shelf. I openly admit I have my own shelf containing many such kits, where perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew, or something was catastrophically wrong with the thing so it was all but unbuildable. A price was agreed, and the box plus supporting research material was duly handed over.

The J6 Class was an updated version of an earlier loco, dating from the 1900s. Originally designed as a mixed traffic type for the Great Northern Railway, the second series of the locos, known as the 536 series after the assigned running number of the first one to be built, eventually ran to 95 examples. They changed little over their lives, the most notable changes being in the tenders to which they were coupled. The last examples were scrapped in the early 1960s.

The commission was to build a loco with a number my client had actually “spotted” in his youth. As it turned out, that particular loco couldn’t be built from the kit, as it had a different tender, but we ended up with 64253—also spotted back in the day. The real loco was based at Hornsey shed in north London in the late 1950s, so that’s how the model has been completed.

It’s important, sometimes, to know your limitations. Mine tend to be complex paintwork and complex mechanical things. In this case the paintwork was easy—plain black—but the client asked if it might be possible to fit a set of fully working inside motion. That, as some might say, is beyond my pay grade, so I commissioned a friend and excellent modeller to build the loco chassis for me. 64253 has a lovely set of Stephenson’s motion installed, and rather splendid it looks, too, waggling about under the boiler.

The rest of the kit, marketed under the Gladiator Models label and designed by Fourtrack Models, went together fairly well. It was originally designed for a smaller scale, and the photo tools for the etched parts suffered a little from the enlargement process to 7mm to the foot scale. Most etched holes, such as those for handrail knobs and parts of the braking system, suffered from being slightly over size. The boiler had been rolled into a cylinder by the manufacturer, but unfortunately had been done inside out and had to be flattened and re-rolled! I had to make some replacement parts from scratch due to poor fitting. Overall, though, nothing too taxing.

The client requested a clean satin black finish, as he wants to weather the model himself. We agreed that I should partially weather the loco and tender chassis and wheels in order to avoid having to disassemble things later. I also partially weathered the coal space in the tender before filling it with some coal.

The smokebox number and shed plates, and the Great Northern Railway works plates, were custom etched by Narrow Planet. The works plates are completely legible, and are correct for the loco’s original GNR number and build date. Some detail parts, and parts of the inside motion, were sourced from Laurie Griffin and Connoisseur Models.

All in all, building this smart little engine has been an interesting departure from my usual fare. I am quite pleased at how it turned out, and I hope it gives many years of good service to its new owner.